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Notes: Baldelli healthy, ready to go

Notes: Baldelli healthy, ready to go

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Count Rocco Baldelli among those who were happy to be in action Wednesday as the team went through its first full-squad workout.

"It's been awhile," Baldelli said. "It felt good out there. ... It's pretty much the first I've been out there since Orlando."

Baldelli pulled up lame after running out a ground ball during the Rays' series against the Rangers in Orlando. That was May 15 and he went on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain on May 17. He did not play in another Major League game during the 2007 season.

Now the Rays are taking it slow with Baldelli. He will be part of manager Joe Maddon's triumvirate (along with Cliff Floyd and Jonny Gomes) that will split designated-hitter and right-field duties.

"I think we're going to pretty much work together to decide what I'm going to take part in and what I'm not [this spring]," said Baldelli when asked about the approach the Rays want him to take. "I think anything that's going to be repetitious, has a lot to do with me running a lot or things like that, maybe I won't take part in."

Which doesn't mean Baldelli can't go all out.

"Even before Spring Training started, I sprinted hard and things like that," Baldelli said. "Game conditions are different -- there's adrenaline and you're trying to take it to whatever the next level is. I'll worry about that when the time comes. But I feel good and I don't think there's much reason to worry right now."

Toward the end of the 2007 season and some during the offseason, Baldelli was poked, prodded and underwent countless tests to determine his health. Nothing specific came from those tests, but Baldelli can now say with some assurance that all is well.

"I think you can call me a healthy 26-year-old male," Baldelli said.

He is healthy to the point where he doesn't worry about it.

"I'm to a point where my body may respond a little differently if I go out there and kill myself," Baldelli said. "Normally, I go out there in Spring Training and every drill I do all the reps I'm supposed to and then some, and I do them as hard as I can until, when I leave the field, I'm tired at the end of the day. That's my normal routine. I've done it that way [always]. ... It's tough when you play one way -- I've always tried to play hard -- it's an adjustment trying not to do that every single time you take the field, but it's something I have to do this year."

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Baldelli said the experience has been mentally draining.

"It's not easy to deal with, going through all this," Baldelli said. "It's not something most ballplayers have to go through. It's kind of an odd situation I'm in. But I think I'm holding up about as well as I could hope for."

Smiling Pena: At least one Rays player seemed to have a permanent smile on his face during Wednesday's workout, and that was Carlos Pena, last season's team MVP and the American League's Comeback Player of the Year.

"This is great, I'm excited to be here and see my teammates," Pena said. "I really could not wait to get back. It was a great day for me today. It was a lot of fun. I was having fun. It's great to see all my teammates. ... You talk to all of them over the phone, but it's different when you get to see them face-to-face and interact with them and work out with them. It's a great thing.

"I think when you have a team with a good chemistry, it really helps. And I think we're to the point right now where we're creating a family. And I felt pretty comfortable last year. But the clubhouse keeps getting better and better."

Left-hander Scott Kazmir boldly broached the subject of the Rays playing in October this season, and Pena didn't shoot down such an idea, though he offered some temperance.

"Obviously, in our minds we are a playoff team," Pena said. "And first we have to believe that. So that has to almost be ingrained in you and not a second thought. We just know we should be playing in October.

"We also know there's a process. Every game needs to be played to the best of our ability. We need to optimize every single opportunity that comes our way to win ballgames. We know that there's a process involved. But we do have a vision about becoming a winning team. And we see that in the very near future. We don't really think that's very far-fetched."

This and that: Infielders Willy Aybar and Joel Guzman, along with right-hander Juan Salas, were the only players not reporting to camp on time; all three continue to have visa problems. ... On Wednesday, Maddon made a speech to the entire squad similar to the one that he delivered to pitchers and catchers last week. Upon being asked, "How was Joe the second time around?" Rays closer Troy Percival deadpanned: "I don't know, I didn't listen." ... Maddon lauded shortstop Jason Bartlett for his fluid movement and second baseman Akinori Iwamura for the way he went through bunt drills.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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